There’s a fascinating series of articles (see link above) being released by Stuff based on the NIB State Of The Nation Parenting Survey which surveyed 1200 New Zealand parents. According to the survey, 76% of parents worried about the amount of time they could spend with their children.
Nathan Wallis is right on point when he says; "It's no surprise we have skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression and suicide in our teenagers because I don't think as a society we are looking after our kids very well, putting them in institutions early ... getting both of our parents to go to work, we're far more concerned about the economy than the quality of a child's life."
However, I do question his comments that it is a political issue. It makes it seem as though we are at the mercy of the government and we have no control or possibilities for freedom in our lives. To phrase this as a political issue allows us to feel helpless and like victims to the situation. Unfortunately, this plays right into our psychological needs as human beings to have what is termed as “plausible deniability”.
Plausible deniability is one way we deal with avoiding being labelled as having done something “wrong”. If we can say, “I was powerless and I didn’t know!” this makes our inaction justifiable and we may even gain sympathy from those around us.
To help understand the concept, one of the clearest examples of plausible deniability comes in the form of press secretaries. Their job is to basically to know enough about a subject to be able to talk about it but must be unaware of the details enough so that they can never be accused of lying nor of withholding information.
The problem in parenting is that the excuse of plausible deniability is becoming less and less viable. There is now so much research and information out there regarding the time we should be spending with our children in order to build the meaningful and strongly bonded relationships that our children’s mental health requires. And as Wallis points out in the article most parents do know that something is going on; "... most of us know we're doing a half-arsed job, that we're not giving it the commitment we want to be able to and the ramifications of that ... it's leading to people feeling kind of hollow and not fulfilled." And yet, there will still be plenty of parents who when issues begin to manifest themselves strongly in the teenage years (or increasingly earlier) will still pull out the excuse of, “I didn’t know” and “there’s nothing I could do”.
So what will we do with the research and other information out there? Are we really helpless in this situation? Are we simply at the mercy of government policies? Is there really no other way of living life other than having two full-time working parents? Is it really a matter of finances that we can’t spend time with our children? How prepared are we to look at alternative ways of living life instead of the standard rat-race?
The case is also similar to what is happening in education. We have the teacher’s union as well as teachers themselves metaphorically trumpeting from the rooftops and literally marching in the streets informing everyone who will listen as to the state of our schools. And still parents seem to disconnect from this information and will later insist that they “didn’t know” that their child really wasn’t learning anything at school. Check out my presentation at www.frankeducation.nz/page/the-education-crisis/ for more information.
In conclusion, no, we are not helpless but we must be willing to look at the facts and the evidence if we are to find our own way out. We can no longer hide from the facts but must look them straight in the eye and allow them to inform our choices. And that’s the beauty of the opportunity you have in this life. The opportunity to build and create the life that you actually want for yourself and your family. As tempting as it may be to see yourself as a boat tossed about on the ocean of whatever is happening politically, we should rather see ourselves as free human beings capable of making choices for our lives. The options are there, will you take them?